[[quoteright:291:[[VideoGame/MonsterHunter http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/aelucanth_blademaster_armor.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:291:Left: The tough, [[RatedMForManly manly]] male version of the Aelucanth Blademaster armor set. \\
Right: The graceful, beauty-focused female version.]]
->''When I was born, they looked at me and said, what a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.''
->''And when you were born, they looked at you and said, what a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.''
--> -- '''Music/BarenakedLadies''', "What a Good Boy"

Certain ideals are expected to be embodied by male and female characters for them to be seen as attractive to the opposite sex. Sexy female characters are physically desirable; Sexy male characters are strong and proactive. This is a consequence of MenActWomenAre as applied to sex appeal: A woman's attractiveness is mostly due to her passive physical attributes, while a man's attractiveness is mostly a result of his behavior.

For female characters, passivity does not detract from their attractiveness. In extreme cases, female characters who are ''very'' active will be seen as [[NoGuyWantsAnAmazon undesirable]], or that they can only love a man [[AllAmazonsWantHercules stronger]] [[BestHerToBedHer than themselves]]. Furthermore, a physically unattractive woman will always be unattractive regardless of how proactive she is. Male characters are viewed as less attractive if they are passive. In fact a [[MagnificentBastard dynamic]] [[AllGirlsWantBadBoys evil man]] is more likely to be viewed as [[DracoInLeatherPants attractive]] than a [[NonActionGuy decent but weak man]]. A physically unattractive man's dynamic qualities can also make him more attractive.

Some male characters who are physically attractive-particularly in a "PrettyBoy" kind of way -- will be seen as [[NonActionGuy weak]], less than a man, or [[MistakenForGay suspected of being gay]]. This holds doubly true if they spend time [[TheDandy cultivating their attractiveness.]]

In summary, physical attractiveness only ever adds to a woman's sex appeal while being active [[NoGuyWantsAnAmazon may]] or [[AmazonChaser may not]] detract. Whereas for men being proactive only ever adds to a man's sex appeal while being physically attractive may or may not add to his desirability.

These differing standards lead to the genders being held to equally damaging but different standards of attractiveness and have numerous UnfortunateImplications.

For women the implication is that your actions are irrelevant to your attractiveness to the opposite sex. As long as you're beautiful, even if you're 105 lbs of [[TheLoad useless deadweight]] or a complete and utter bitch you're still desirable. And if you're not born beautiful enough, no matter what you do, FailureIsTheOnlyOption for you.

The UnfortunateImplications for men are that men are shallow and [[AllMenArePerverts only after one thing]], thus they don't care if a woman is a dynamic, active character, and that women have no worth beyond their looks. Also, male characters will end up pulling more than their own weight, [[HystericalWoman emotionally]] and [[MenAreTheExpendableGender physically]], in works where this trope is in effect.

And, just like the beauty ideal puts incredible pressure on women to be beautiful, the strength ideal puts incredible pressure on men to judge themselves against an impossible standard of [[TheStoic stoicism]], [[{{Determinator}} willpower]] and [[CharlesAtlasSuperpower physical strength]]. These pressures have not received as much press or attention on their effects on men and boys, partially due to the idea that men aren't as [[MenDontCry emotionally fragile as women]], that things that [[MenAreTheExpendableGender affect women are worse than things that affect men]]. This in turn enforces another DoubleStandard: That women must be [[DamselInDistress defended]] from the evil media, while men [[AcceptableTargets should be able to just shrug it off]].

In the last few decades there has been more of a push to create [[ActionGirl dynamic female characters]]. Unfortunately this often seems to come at the expense of the male characters they are paired with who are portrayed as incompetent and emasculated. It is a hard balance to strike, and difficult to imagine a [[InvertedTrope work]] in which a [[BeautyIsNeverTarnished beautiful]], [[VirginPower vir]][[AManIsNotAVirgin gin]] [[{{Bishonen}} male character]] is saved from peril by a [[{{Beastess}} grizzled]] [[ActionGirl female]] AntiHero who is [[LoveRedeems changed for the better]] by his [[IncorruptiblePurePureness pure heart]], without the man seeming like a useless [[ARealManIsAKiller wussy-pants]] whose wuss-ness disqualifies him from being a man and, more importantly, from [[MenAreTheExpendableGender being saved]]. See ActionGirlfriend for the few couples who approach such a dynamic, like Zoe and Wash from ''Series/{{Firefly}}''.

This is the supertrope for UglyGuyHotWife, BeastAndBeauty, HollywoodHomely, NonActionGuy. See also BeautyIsNeverTarnished, and the unequal application of DirtForcefield.
!!Specific Examples:

* The author of ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'', Creator/NobuhiroWatsuki, believes that men should be strong and women, cute. There are few, if any, women able to fight any {{Big Bad}}s or against Kenshin and his team. Though in Kaoru's case it isn't so much that she's weak, but that everyone else is too strong.
* Creator of ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'', Creator/HiromuArakawa designs her characters with a specific variation on this principle: "men should be buff! women should be va-voom!"

* PlayedWith in the original [[ComicBook/{{Shazam}} the Marvel Family]]: all three members had Strength, Wisdom and Speed, but while Billy and Freddie also had Stamina, Power and Bravery, Mary's additional powers (which came from goddesses) were Beauty, Grace and Skill. {{Averted|Trope}} in the ComicBook/PostCrisis reimagining, where the three all had the same powers from the same (male) benefactors.
** [[MadScientist Doctor Sivana]]'s two non-evil kids are [[MadScientistsBeautifulDaughter Beautia]], who [[MeaningfulName lives up to that name]], and [[MadDictatorsHandsomeSon Magnificus]], who is a BadassNormal.

* This is the gender norm in ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''--men are expected to bear arms and fight while women are expected to sit around and keep house. Arthur "[[RedBaron The Sword of the Morning]]" and Ashara Dayne, siblings whose deaths in the aftermath of Robert's Rebellion were much-romanticized as a result of this trope, exemplify this; Arthur was a MasterSwordsman and member of the Kingsguard while Ashara was WorldsMostBeautifulWoman at the time. Characters that subvert these expectations, such as Brienne of Tarth and Asha Greyjoy (both warrior women) are met with derision.

* Invoked in ''Series/WhoWantsToBeASuperhero'', where the comic covers for the potential contestants had the men with bigger muscles than the real ones, and the women are likewise depicted with [[MostCommonSuperpower bigger breasts]] (except for Fat Momma, who wasn't depicted as any prettier and was instead depicted as a massive, hulking powerhouse).
* ''Series/StargateSG1'': Kar'yn and Rya'c use this trope for their wedding vows:
-->'''Kar'yn''': Rya'c, your heart is pure and your spirit strong. You give me strength and joy and I will stand by your side always.
-->'''Rya'c''': Kar'yn, you are as beautiful as the sun and my love for you is like the morning rays that dawn over an endless day.

* In the second edition of ''Fantasy Hero'' for the ''[[TabletopGame/{{Champions}} Hero System]]'', there was a description of what it meant to have a characteristic higher than 20: "Songs are written about the man with 25 Strength or the woman with 24 Comeliness."

* In ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'', the "FrankensteinsMonster" and "Bride of Frankenstein" backgrounds are almost identical, but males get a strength bonus while females get a beauty bonus.
* The [[CostumePorn many, many armor sets]] of ''VideoGame/MonsterHunter'' tend to abide by this trope. The male version will often look tough and hide the wearer's face, while the female version will generally focus on looking graceful, keep the wearer's face visible, and in some cases, boast a little {{Fanservice}}. The image up top is a more specific example: The male Aelucanth armor set is designed to invoke the image of an intimidating insect, while the female version strongly resembles a butterfly. Aesthetics aside, the game generally averts this trope with regards to the PlayerCharacter; both male and female hunters are equally as capable of becoming {{Badass}} G-rank hunters and neither have a gameplay advantage over the other.

* The reason why the first man and woman in PhilippineMythology are named ''Malakas'' (strong) and ''Maganda'' (beautiful) respectively as they were born on split bamboo.

* The official motto of the State of Maryland is ''[[GratuitousItalian Fatti maschii, parole femine]]'':[[labelnote:*]]Italian speakers: The spelling is correct, but archaic.[[/labelnote]] "Manly deeds, womanly words." (Some higher-ups became uncomfortable with the outdated connotations, and changed the official translation to "Strong deeds, gentle words," but this doesn't really change the basic facts...)

!! Inversions:

* ''Manga/HighSchoolDebut'': Haruna, the female lead, is defined mostly by her strength and athleticism (her looks are [[GenericCuteness merely average]]). Yoh, the male lead, is known for his attractiveness, and it's the first thing people comment on when meeting him for the first time.

* ''ComicBook/YTheLastMan'': The central cast is a badass secret agent and bodyguard, an InsufferableGenius cloning expert and the crucially important survivor. The first two are both women, the last is a NonActionGuy.

* In ''WesternAnimation/WallE'', while pretty much every robot featured is ''adorable'', EVE is the one who does a whole lot more for the sake of her boyfriend and her directive/career, while WALL•E himself is pretty much thrust into situations he shouldn't be in for the sake of a romantic partner. Technically they both have NoBiologicalSex, but for audience purposes they are fairly obviously gendered.

* The world of ''Literature/ABrothersPrice'' features a broad StereotypeFlip of most gender roles, set in an analogue of the nineteenth century. Therefore the noted attributes of women are strength, confidence, intelligence, competence etc, with ugliness being a detriment but fairly minor, but although men are expected to be able to run a household and raise children ''their'' beauty is extremely important.

* The eponymous protagonist of ''Series/{{Chuck}}'' is a sensitive, HollywoodHomely {{Nerd}} who helps his ActionGirl bodyguard deal with her inner demons.
* Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer tends to kick much more ass than any of her boyfriends (master vampires included).
* ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' has tough soldier Zoe married to sensitive pilot Wash.

* ''Radio/APrairieHomeCompanion'': In Lake Wobegon, all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

* ''Webcomic/SwordPrincessAmaltea'': Thanks to the story being held in a {{Matriarchy}} world, with gender roles reversed, the females are the dominant gender, and while most of them are attractive, their looks are not such a big deal as their intelligence, cleverness and overall, pride and strenght. Male otherwise hold little to no power, especially if their not royal-born, and their good looks are all that matters, to the point they keep their manes long and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the females.